Upper Wharfedale


Upper Wharfedale has been the venue of quite a few Dotcom walks over the years – especially over the Christmas period. One such walk was from Starbotton a few years back. Out on that day from Preston were Jim, Brian, Bill and myself linking up with John on holiday nearby and Andy from Cowling Yorkshire. Geoff too came along but not for the full walk but would join us on the valley sections. 
A sharp overnight frost was slow to clear as we headed along the Dales Way towards Bucken. As we started to the climb to cross Old Cote Moor Geoff headed back to his car to rendezvous with us later in Littondale. For the rest of us our ascent gave us a taste of heaven as we left the shadow of the valley onto sunlit uplands made magical by a dusting of snow. On the way down to Litton we had an enjoyable encounter. Coming up the track were seven Father Christmases and a chap dressed in a dog’s costume. They were a band of old school mates living in different parts of the country who had come together for a boozy break and given the season had decided to dress festively for the occasion. “What’s with the dog?” we wondered. It turned out he was at the back of the queue in the fancy dress shop and when he came to his turn Father Christmas suits had all been taken.
Reunited with Geoff outside the Queen’s Arms Litton we went into the 17th century inn for our lunch. The clear weather had brought out a lot of people most of whom seemed intent on having their lunch in this out of the way location. Even as we pondered over the menu a couple and a quartet of walkers put their orders in before us. Inevitably once we seven made up our minds we had a longer than planned wait. Under most circumstances this might not have been a problem especially in the cosy lounge of that lovely pub but our outing was on the shortest day of the year and we had a moor to cross.
90 minutes laterwe headed down Littondale. As we reached the outskirts of Arncliffe light was fading fast. Jim, Bill and I were somewhat ahead of the others. “What do you think?” asked Jim as we contemplated the steep escarpment between us and Starbotton. I was about to suggest we walk round by road – long but safe. However it was Andy’s turn to be brave that day who when he caught up with us without hesitation led us onto the bridleway to re-cross Old Cote Moore and down into Upper Wharfedale. I’m not sure if we had a torch between us but we made it down without mishap reaching the cars in pitch blackness.

 Fact file

Start. Kettlewell Village Car park BD23 5QZ

Distance 8 miles

Time: 4 - 5 hours (Or longer if you have a leisurely lunch in a pub!)

Grade: Moderate Two easy sections and two strenuous sections

Map: OS OL30 The Yoskshire Dales Northern and Central sections


 Map by kind permission of Johnston Press


1. From the car park turn right to cross the road bridge.


On the far side turn right onto a track leading to a riverside path. You are now on the Dales Way one of the best long distance paths in the UK.


Keep on it for a little under two miles with the River Wharfe to your right.

2. As you near Starbotton the next village up the Dale a footbridge comes in from the right across the river.


As you reach it turn left onto a bridleway which takes you to the base of the escarpment and then bears left to climb out of the valley. After passing through woodland


the track reaches high pasture. After reaching a wall a signpost indicates a cross roads of two bridleways - here go right to cross the ridge below High Cote Moor. Through the ridge wall


descend to Arncliffe in Littondale.


On the last section of the track turn left onto a footpath which place you on a lane at a junction with the road leading across the River Skirfare.

3. Turn left. There follows a prolonged section of road walking


along this very quiet lane

4. When you reach the tiny settlement of Hawkswick


keep on the lane to the far end of the buildings then just before a junction on the right turn left onto a footpath


taking you towards the escarpment. After passing through a gate the track bears right


climbing to 1200ft to reach a cairn overlooking Wharfedale. Here turn left climb to a ladder stile


and on a broad grassy track descend to Kettlewell.


As the route reaches woodland the descent becomes steeper and rockier


bringing you to the road close to Kettlewell Bridge.